Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) has been accepted within medical fields as an effective and safe form of treatment for depression, anxiety and insomnia. Recently, there have been multiple personal-use devices released that appropriate these neuroscientific findings and are being marketed as a way of combating stress, anxiety and insomnia that is safer and more effective than prescription medication or substance use (coffee, alcohol etc). Thync is the first such device that is wearable, portable and controlled through an iOS app, offering settings for energy and relaxation. This lesson is designed to introduce students to this new technology, and challenge them to consider the implications of such devices from a rhetorical position. The lesson asks students to first distill their personal views of how their use of devices & technology (including social media) relates to their emotional states/mood, and then see how knowledge of such “neurosignaling” devices complicates the rhetorical and causal dimensions of their initial perspectives.
The goal of the lesson is to provide rhetorical analysis of the emergent neurosignaling technology and, using devices such as Thync as a representative anecdote, to investigate the emotional dimensions of our device use and our social media activity.
One class length
Computers with word processors for each student. Projector for Powerpoint viewing.
Ability to operate word processor
Access and Adaptability
The lesson is designed to be applicable to a broad range of class topics and student interests. The relationship between technology and emotional health is evocative and though contemporary, not bound to the present in its topical scope.
The lesson can be easily adapted to a non-digital classroom, wherein students can use their own devices for the brief digital activity, or the activity can be substituted for a group discussion.
Students will be asked to analyze the rhetoric of technology and emotion, as exemplified in a Thync promotional video (or other possible sample texts). After viewing a sample video, students will research other viewpoints before writing a short essay commenting on the relationship between technology, social media, and the user’s emotional state. Ideally, this response would include engagement with the emergent wearable devices designed to alter emotional states.
In-Class or Assignment Instructions
The video embedded above shows a journalist interviewing the creator of the Thync device while wearing the device and attempting to observe its effects.
- The way you wear the device.
- @1:20 The discussion of tingling: creator says “you learn to enjoy that a lot … you’ll be missing [the tingle] a lot when you’re not using it.”
- @1:50 “Dampening fight or flight response”
- @2:20 Discussion of placebo effect.
- @2:47 “If you can, center yourself, stay calm” The creator veers into terminology of mindful/meditative self-regulation of emotions.
- @3:03 “People just want an off button, just to chill out.”
- @3:08 “I’m pretty certain I’m feeling it”
- at the end of the video, the price of non-reusable strips.
These are the rhetorical artifacts present in the video. Show the video through the projector and have students write down what they interpret to be potentially dubious or rhetorically alarming. When the video finishes, ask them to discuss the various parts of the video they considered to be a potential issue. There is some interpretive flexibility here, as the various rhetorical artifacts in the video offer multiple paths of discussion. The parts of the video that the students take notice of will help direct the discussion. Example discussion topics could include the rhetorical dimensions of the placebo effect, the potential harm of interfering with fight or flight response, and the addictive characterization of the device’s effects.
You can show this video of the most contemporary medical application of Electroconvulsive Therapy; the video is from 2016, though the treatment is visually reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Ask students to comprehend what visual rhetorical differences there are between contemporary ECT therapy and the Thync device.
After discussion, the instructor should have students use computers (or available personal devices) to access the internet. The students should search the internet for an application or device that is oriented toward self-improvement or mood improvement.
Give students ten to fifteen minutes to conduct their search.
The instructor can choose to have students participate in group discussion of their artifacts, or can have the students write an in class response comparing the rhetorical dimensions of their artifact in relation to the Thync device’s rhetorical characterization.
The response can be assigned for the next class if the lesson takes up the majority of class time, and if instructors without student computer access want to employ this lesson, the web search portion can be supplemented through a pre-prepared list of potential artifacts that reflect the specific theoretical imperative of the class.
The most general prompt would be:
Write a 1 page paper that investigates the contemporary connection between emotional states and technology use. Use specific examples to argue for the overall benefit or harm of technology on our emotional existence, and consider how/if technologies such as “neurosignaling devices” reinforce or complicate your argument.
Since this lesson is topically digital but does not demand computer use in the classroom, there are no special skills that must be gained prior to the implementation of the lesson.
The nature of the lesson demands that an informal literature-review be provided. Below is a collection of multimedia relevant to the topic of the lesson.
It is advised for instructors to familiarize themselves with the media presented here. If the instructor feels certain texts should be read or media viewed for the benefit of the students, the lesson can be augmented and adapted to the wants of the instructor.
- Fisher Wallace Descriptive Video (non-wearable CES personal device)
- Day Time talk show review of Thync Device (Placebo effect visible)
- CBS News Report on Thync (with creator interview)
- Facebook use and Depression (short video about peer reviewed case study)
- Device Use and Psychology News Report
- 5 Ways Social Media is Changing your Brain (also embedded below)
- New Scientist Editorial on Thync
- Think CEO interview with Wearable.com (Merging biology and technology)
- Peer reviewed paper on CES and depression, anxiety and insomnia
- Food and Drug Administration panel on CES report
- Paper questioning the longer term effects of CES
- Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology report on Facebook use and depression
Additionally, instructors could ask students to use their top sites, google history, prior Facebook activity, choices in phone apps etc to develop a personal profile of their own technology use.
This profile should be optional (as not all students would potentially feel comfortable doing such an assignment), and should be separate from the response paper (so students who do not wish to survey their own tech use can respond to the prompt equally).
The writing response should be considered in terms of:
- Its inclusion of multiple perspectives on the issue of technology and the psyche.
- Demonstration of these perspectives through material examples such as devices and statistics.
- Consideration of the rhetorical capacity our devices and digital representations have for affecting our emotions, our self-worth and our empathy for others.